Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hail me a cab.

No need, my cab is already here.
Budbreak in the Cabernet sauvignon vines is not particularly widespread, but it is taking place in the usual places; against a retaining wall, up on the top of a slope, in the more youthful vines. The weather is fantastic, so the vines can't be blamed for getting a little bit of an early start this year. The Cabernet vines have a long way to go if they are trying to catch up with the Orange muscat vines though.  At around 26 inches in height already, the Orange muscat shoots are way out ahead.
Next up, trunk suckering and shoot thinning.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Miniature lupine.

Yet again I have discovered a new, blue wildflower in Vinoland.  Just when I thought I had made the acquaintance of all the blue-flowered wildflowers that happen to bloom on the more unkempt parts of the property, I found the diminutive miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor).  I literally tripped over this little flower, in an attempt not to tread on it, whilst I was admiring the Bowltube Iris which had flowered nearby earlier in the week.  When I steadied myself and looked around I saw a lot of miniature lupine with their slightly tropical looking palmate leaves, hairy buds and deep purple-blue sweet pea-like flowers.  So cute.
I am still waiting for the reappearance of one other blue wildflower which has been very elusive these past few springs.  I have a photograph of this mystery wildflower, but I want to make sure I see it again before posting about it.  Only then will I be satisfied that I have exhausted all the blue wildflowers in my little corner of wildflower-heaven.  But then again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


As is our tradition, Vinomaker and I like to surprise each other with a visit to a new restaurant on each other's birthday.  My surprise eatery this birthday was The Thomas at Fagiani's in downtown Napa.  I had been wanting to visit The Thomas for a while now as I had heard good things about it.
Fagiani's was originally a bar and liquor store that closed down in 1974 after a ghastly murder on the premises.  The building remained shuttereded until it was sold to the current proprietors some 37 years later.  The restaurant's name, the bar is still called Fagiani's, comes from the original establishment, (the building was built in 1909, historic for Napa), which was a restaurant and a boarding house.  Interestingly, The Thomas was operated as a speakeasy during prohibition.  And that's about where my interest in The Thomas ends. 
Mediocre service, mediocre food, (except a special mention should go to the baked brussel sprouts which were instead carbonised), and a mediocre 'wine by the glass' wine list, overall The Thomas was a disappointing experience. Hate when that happens.  
Vinomaker did manage to find a couple of wines that were quaffable; a Navarro Vineyards, 2012 Riesling (Anderson Valley AVA) and a Giornata, 2012 'Il Campo' - a Sangiovese blend (Central Coast AVA).  On a positive note, because there are so many great restaurants to choose from in the Napa Valley, I never have to eat at The Thomas again.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happy Bubbly-Birthday to me!

Started my birthday off in just the right way with pink bubbles, thanks to Vinomaker.  The bubbles paired nicely with some new pruning gloves and a new pair of Felco 6 secateurs.
Actually, rain woke me up which for me wasn't a particularly good way to wake up, but the day just keeps getting better.  Had a nice FaceTime chat with the family and a nice walk with Vinodog 2.  I have a few, fun things going on this afternoon and dinner tonight.  Fun!
Oh...and Happy Birthday John Toshack.
Vinogirl loves birthdays.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A spring in one's step.

It's the first full day of spring and the Syrah vines certainly do have a spring in their step.  No sooner than Vinomaker and I had finished tying down the Syrah canes last Saturday the buds started to push out.  Slow down little buddies!
The Cabernet sauvignon vines seem to be still snoozing,which is just fine with me, but that could change any day now.  Vintage 2015 is well underway.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's the first day of spring!

I know that today is the first day of spring because I checked that little factoid in my handy-dandy 2015 copy of Old Moore's Almanack.  I also happen to know that today is a good day to plant such things as asparagus, celery, brassicas, root vegetables and legumes, but only between the hours of 8.30 am to 12.55 pm, 1.20 to 2.40 pm and 3.05 to 4.10 pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  Today is also a great day for me to go fishing (in the afternoon), and an even better day for me to bet on the dogs (if I just happen to be passing through Birmingham, England).  Good stuff.
Hang on a minute, didn't I just recently say that I had always wanted a copy of Old Moore's Almanack, but had never actually owned one? Well, as of yesterday, via the Royal and the US mails, I now have my very first copy of the annual publication that I always wanted when I was little thanks to my brother Thud.  Apparently, perhaps moved by my tale of woe, Thud decided he would rectify the decades old almanac-absence in his little sister's life.  Or perhaps he feels I need a bit of help in my current life, although it does say, in my personal daily guide (for Aries), that today my personal intuition and confidence should be strong enough for me to make successful decisions.  Cool, I should start by deciding whether to have salmon or prawns for dinner.
Of course, all these predictions and forecasts etc., are in GMT, so a little bit of mathematics will be required prior to me deciding whether or not I am going to plant, fish or gamble today. Thanks, big brother!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

All in a row.

I don't know if these new Pinot grigio shoots are actually feeling particularly quarrelsome (the English language is great, isn' it?), but they are all lined up, and all equally as enthused.  Putting on 4 to 5 inches of growth in less than a week is only to be expected in mid 70° temps.  And I'm not going to argue with them, they know what they're doing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Recon Day: 2015.

Yesterday, was the annual TWWIAGE Recon Day, a day when staff and owners go out and about in the Napa Valley to visit neighbours - and drink a little wine.  Oh, and throw in a little lunch along the way (this year the wonderful Mustards Grill).  We convened in the TWWIAGE tasting room at 9.30 a.m., then we were off and running.
First stop was Caymus Vineyards.  Boy, how Caymus has changed!  Fresh off their $1,000,000 fine, the Rutherford winery, in my opinion, has been turned into a zoo (they now see 400 plus people on a Saturday).  Or as Mrs. TWWIAGE quipped, "...a patio furniture showroom."  There is indeed an awful lot of garden furniture in which folks can lounge and sip wine.  I can't even be bothered to comment on their wines, except for a beautiful late harvest Viognier.
Next stop, Paradigm Winery.  A great Oakville location, with wonderful wines made by Heidi Barrett (of note, a 2011 Cabernet franc), our host was none other than owner Ren Harris.  Of particular interest to me was Paradigm's modified vineyard trellising which is made out of the frames of US Army cots from the Viet Nam war.  True!
Last stop, (three winery tours is quite enough for one day), was Silver Oak Cellars.  I hadn't visited Silver Oak since they rebuilt the property in 2008 (the iconic water tower is still there).  The facility is gorgeous with modern winemaking equipment.  And our tour guide was great.  But Silver Oak wines have always been just okay for me, a 2004 Napa Cabernet sauvignon in the tasting lineup being the stand out.
Fun day, good company, glorious weather, but I was glad to get home, walk Vinodog 2 and then put my feet up.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The ties of March.

Today, I was going to post a photograph I took on a walk down at the Napa river, with Vinodog 2, of a recent high tide.  And I was going to title it 'The Tides of March'.  But instead, because I finished pruning/tying down the entire vineyard today (with a lot of help from Vinomaker), here is a photograph of an end post, a Gripple and the very last tie down for 2015.
I'm done, earliest ever!  Whoo hoo!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Morning in the Winery: 2.

I took a little time off from pruning this morning to attend the 2nd annual Morning in the Winery (MITW) event.  Sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners, and billed as a "casual, community open house," MITW gives locals the chance to experience a winery in a way, perhaps, that most people don't get the chance to do, like the opportunity to wander through tank rooms, barrel rooms and crush pads.
There were 5 wineries to choose from; Spelletich, Monticello, Markham, Dutch Henry and Cuvaison.  Vinomaker and I decided to visit Cuvaison because we fancied a bit of a drive out to Carneros.  It was a gorgeous morning for a visit to a winery.  Cuvaison winemaker Steve Rogstad hosted our tour which was fun and informative.  I learned that Cuvaison is Fish Friendly.  Yikes, I think everyone will be Fish Friendly soon, (it seems the new, trendy thing to do).  MITW is a good event, hope there will be a number 3.

Friday, March 13, 2015

I'm a fan.

I love this portable wind machine that showed up in the Opus One vineyard last week; the fan one day, the propane tank the next.  The vast majority of vineyards around the Napa Valley have been pruned now and vineyard-vistas are greening up as leaves and shoots (white varietals) are appearing atop vines as a fuzzy, pale green haze.
The Opus One vineyard is, of course, Cabernet sauvignon - an expensive crop that needs to be protected from frost.  With the possible threat of frosty spring mornings just around the corner, vineyard managers up and down the valley are making sure that frost protection means are in place, and in working order. Vineyard managers that employ overhead sprinklers for frost protection have been checking that their sprinkler systems will indeed sprinkle when called upon to do so, (as evidenced by the number of vineyards that have been getting a good sprinkler-dousing the past couple of weeks).
I finished pruning the Syrah today, making my spur and cane selections that is, I haven't tied them all down yet.  The Syrah vines are very enthused which makes tying the canes down difficult.  It also means that those little buds will be susceptible to frost damage if we have a chilly morning.  My fingers are crossed because I don't have a portable wind machine.
On another note, this past Wednesday's Napa Valley Register reported that more than 400 concerned citizens had showed up at a joint meeting of the Napa City Board of Supervisors and the Napa County Planning Commission (on Tuesday 10th March).  What are they concerned about? Vintners, growers and average folk are concerned about the unfettered growth of wineries within the agricultural preserve, wineries that "are becoming glitzy event centers that overshadow agriculture, generate too much traffic and use too much groundwater."  A group of  growers and vintners, notably Andy Beckstoffer and Dennis Groth, submitted a joint letter (which I'm sure got a frosty reception from the supervisors), asking the county to enforce regulations set in place under the 1990 Winery Definition Ordinance.  Problem is, the county repeatedly grants variances to new wineries to get around the laws the county itself instituted to protect the agricultural preserve. It's a highly contentious issue and I'm sure that a huge flap is fermenting.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

In memoriam.

I'll only do this once: that is post a picture of my dearly missed old girl who would have turned 17 years old today.
Vinodog 1 would do anything to please me, which included letting me dress her up in silly costumes, she was so patient.  And here she is posing as Bacchus, (sporting real grape leaves along with plastic grapes), in a photograph that went along with a wine lot at an auction (the proceeds benefited the SPCA).  She was a great dog.
I have enough photographs of V1 that I could probably post a different one each day for a good few years.  This is the last one.
Vinogirl misses you, Miss Pinion.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Saturday bud update.

When flower clusters and mini tendrils appear in the vineyard I think it is safe to say that budbreak has happened.  The Orange muscat (OM) vines are looking very enthused, the baby shoots are almost 2 inches long already.  I have been so busy pruning the Syrah vines that I almost forgot to have a look at how the OM was doing.  They look like they're doing fine and dandy.  Must remember to have a peep at the Pinot grigio tomorrow.  Prune on.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Worm Moon.

It's been a bit of a weird week.  A coworker attributed the weirdness to the full moon on Monday night - except that it was not a full moon that night.  Or even on Tuesday night.  No, the full moon was last night.   I know this because, being me, I checked.  And I did that by going to the Farmers' Almanac websiteAnd I am happy to report that there were no weird goings-on last night in Vinoland.
Farmers' Almanac have the entire full moon schedule for the year, and the names of the full moons.  Last night's full moon, the full moon of March, is known as the Worm Moon because, due to the proximity to the vernal equinox, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear.  Cool.
When I was little I always liked to look at Old Moore's Almanack in the local WH Smith (a book/newspaper shop).  Whilst La Serenissima shopped for the New Musical Express, and Thud opted for Military Modelling magazine, I just got to look at Old Moore's because I never had the money to buy it, or a use for it.  But still, I always wanted a copy - typeset in tiny print, packed with tables of interesting stuff (which included bunches of asterisks, a sure sign of importance), Old Moore's always looked clever, and useful, so it appealed to the geeky mini-Vinogirl.
Nowadays, the online version of Farmers' Almanac is a good substitute for Old Moore's.  One of my favourite features is the 'Best Days' calendar.  Apparently, today, the 6th of March, is a good day to mow to retard growth.  In what hemisphere?  Now, I admit that all of my neighbours who have lawns have been mowing for several weeks, but this is California.  I'd bet that no one in New York state can even get to their lawn mower (due to drifting snow), never mind use it.  New York's worms are safe, for the time being, from being decapitated from lawn mower blades.  Ignore the eastern moon, keep your heads down little earthworms.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Oh no!

Oh yes!  The Syrah is awakening.  Sigh.
I finished pruning Vinoland's Cabernet sauvignon vines last Sunday, the 1st of March.  Pruning is complete that is, I have not yet tied down the canes (best done as a separate vineyard operation).  I was very busy last weekend and I'm going to be very busy this weekend too.  I started to prune the Syrah vines today, apparently not a moment too soon.
Not quite as advanced as when I started to prune the Syrah last year (although close), bud swell/budbreak is indeed happening in a few random vines, not all of them.  But enough to make me wonder if I should start to think about panicking, or just get stuck in and prune like there's no tomorrow.  I'll resurface Monday.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Vinsanity: New logo.

For quite a while now I have wanted a logo for Vinsanity.  I had tried to coax an old school friend who is an artist to design me a logo.  We've known each other since we were teenagers and I think he is one of the best cartoonists ever.  My old St. Augustine's pal definitely made RE classes more fun - you have not seen a simple line drawing of Mother Teresa until you've seen a line drawing of the nun as drawn by the Irreverent Illustrator.  Yikes!  Anyway, I never did get my logo.
Last week I was reading an article in Time Magazine (penned by Joel Stein) all about the new "sharing economy" we now live in.  Amongst some amusing tales about companies such as Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit there was the mention of a website called Fiverr.  I'd never heard of Fiverr before, but apparently for a mere five bucks you could find a person on that website who would design a logo for you.  When I told Vinomaker he was more than skeptical, "Five dollars, really?" he asked me.  Yup, just a fiver. 
After finding a designer (who said she was in the UK and who shall remain anonymous because of Fiverr's strict rules), paying my $5 (and a 50¢ processing fee), and clumsily describing what I wanted by email, in less than 24 hours I had my very own logo.
Five dollars!!!  Totally worth it - for a free blog.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Happy St. David's Day: 2015.

Happy St. David's Day!
The daffodils are nearly finished blooming in Vinoland, it's been a very mild winter.  The daffodil in the photograph has grown from a bulb, one of many, that I planted around Vinodog 1's grave last November.  I love that the vetch tendril is grasping the blade of grass, a weedy-embrace in remembrance of my old girl.
Bore da!